Why are my SOLIDWORKS Thumbnails and Previews missing?

Article by Scott Durksen, CSWE updated March 10, 2016


If your are not able to see SOLIDWORKS thumbnail pictures in Windows Explorer or in the Preview Pane of the Open dialog, there are several reasons that could cause this problem to happen. Listed below are the common solutions.

Thumbnail Missing

Thumbnail Missing

Solution #1: SOLIDWORKS Thumbnail in General Options

The first thing to check is an option within SOLIDWORKS itself.  Tools > Options > System Options tab > General > ‘Show thumbnail graphics in Windows Explorer‘.  Ensure this option is enabled.  Also files must be subsequently opened and saved in SOLIDWORKS to generate the screenshot for the thumbnail.


SOLIDWORKS Options – Show Thumbnail Graphics

Solution #2: Windows Folder Options

The next thing to check is your Windows Folder Options.  There are two options required, one DESELECTED and the other SELECTED

  1. Windows Control Panel > Folder Options
  2. Select the ‘View‘ tab at the top of the window
Folder Options

Folder Options


  1. DESELECT ‘Always show icons, never thumbnails
View - Folder Options

View – Folder Options

  1. SELECT ‘Show preview handlers in preview pane‘ (scroll down to find it)
Preview Handlers

Preview Handlers

Solution #3: Windows Performance Options

SOLIDWORKS Thumbnail may also be disabled if you have customized your performance levels of Windows.

  1. Windows Control Panel > Performance Information and Tools

NOTE: If the top radio buttons are set to “Adjust for best performance”, this will disable all previews and thumbnails

Performance Information and Tools

Performance Information and Tools

  1. Adjust visual effects‘ from the margin on the left of the window
  2. Visual Effects‘ tab at the top of the window
Adjust visual effects

Adjust visual effects

  1. SELECT ‘Show thumbnails instead of icons
Visual Effects

Visual Effects

Solution #4: DLL Registration

During the installation of SOLIDWORKS, many .DLL files are installed and require registration to function properly.  If you had installed without full LOCAL Windows Administration permissions, this can prevent proper registration of the DLLs.  Manually registering the following DLLs can correct the issue.

  • swdocumentmgr.dll (by default under C:\Program Files\Common Files\SOLIDWORKS Shared)
  • sldwinshellextu.dll (by default under C:\Program Files\Common Files\SOLIDWORKS Shared)
  • sldthumbnailprovider.dll (by default under C:\Program Files\Common Files\SOLIDWORKS Shared)

To manually register these DLLs:

  1. Log into Windows as a full LOCAL Administrator Account
  2. Browse in Windows Explorer to verify the location of the above .DLL files
  3. Run the Command Prompt as Administrator (Start > All Programs > Accessories > right-click ‘Command Prompt‘ and “Run as administrator“)
  4. Enter the following text (including quotations) and press Enter after each (*note these are the default installation location folders and may need to be modified)
    • regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\Common Files\SOLIDWORKS Shared\swdocumentmgr.dll”
    • regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\Common Files\SOLIDWORKS Shared\sldwinshellextu.dll”
    • regsvr32 “C:\Program Files\Common Files\SOLIDWORKS Shared\sldthumbnailprovider.dll”
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Scott Durksen, CSWE

Scott is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer and is based in our Dartmouth, Nova Scotia office.